What a difference a couple weeks can make in football. Earlier in the month I stated that Everton needed to get their finger out in terms of transfer dealings in order to get the best possible start under new boss Ronald Koeman.
At that stage their only new signing was experienced Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
But soon after the article was published Everton began to hasten their operations in the transfer market. Defender John Stones finally left the team to join Man City in a £47.5m move. In return Everton splashed out £7m to bring in battling midfielder Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa, then around £12m was spent to bring in Welsh captain Ashley Williams to help shore up the defence and then last week Koeman brought in Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie for a reported £25m.
The new signings have shown that there is definitely an intent with Everton this season to finish in and around the top six places in the Premier League. The assured performances of former Barnsley youngster Mason Holgate have also given the Everton faithful more reason for renewed optimism.
More big signings could also be on their way to Goodison this season with England number one Joe Hart, Deportivo striker Lucas Perez Martinez, Sunderland central defender Lanciné Koné and Porto’s creative attacker Yacine Brahimi are all being heavily linked with the Toffees at the moment.
A feel good factor now surrounds the club again and the manager has already worked his magic on the training ground and it’s been recognised on the park. After two games the side have four points and are still unbeaten. The hope is that the side will only go from strength to strength once the transfer window shuts and all the new recruits settle in with the rest of the squad.
After coming from behind to beat West Brom 2-1 on Saturday, Ronald Koeman told the press that star striker Romelu Lukaku was keen on staying with the Merseyside club for at least another campaign.
The Belgian hitman had been linked with a return to Chelsea all summer. Now there’s still eight days left before transfer window slams shut and with Romelu having Mino Riaola as his agent, we can’t say for definite that he’ll still be with the Merseyside club come September the first, but it is looking more likely.
I think that’s the best decision for Lukaku at this stage of his career.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that the powerful forward is still only twenty-three years old. With that in mind, he’s still learning as a footballer and would benefit from staying on at a good team like Everton as he’s almost guaranteed first team football there. He would learn from playing under Koeman and develop further, especially as the side looks to be on it’s way back up.
If he were to re-join Chelsea or join one of Europe’s other elite clubs, then there could be a good chance that he’d be rotated more often or be benched once again. At this stage that could really stall his career.
In the last three seasons Lukaku has played 127 times for the Toffees and scored 61 goals. That’s a terrific record and only Sergio Aguero has scored more Premier League goals in the last four seasons but there’s still room for improvements in his game.
This season his personal aim should be to score twenty or more in the Premier League, his tally last term was eighteen strikes (which is his best so far).
It could also be argued that the frontman needs to do better in the bigger games. In Euro 2016 he failed to score in the knock-out stages for Belgium and he missed big penalties against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup (whilst at Chelsea) and in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Man United last term. To be honest he also missed a few other decent chances in that vital game against United.
The Everton number ten also needs to work on his defensive contributions for the team. Many a top class manager wants more than just goals from their frontmen. They like a powerful striker who can assert themselves in their own boxes when defending set-pieces like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Most also like players that can defend from the front who harass defenders whenever they are on the ball, a bit like Diego Costa (albeit most would prefer it with less aggression). Like many at Everton, Lukaku was failed by Roberto Martinez and the Spaniard’s lack of a defence nous. That could and should change under Koeman.
Romelu also needs to keep improving his decision making. He still plays with the naivety of a youth when he takes on an extra player rather than play an easy ball to a teammate who is in a better position.
If Lukaku can work on these perceived weaknesses, then he’ll improve his chances of becoming a world-class forward.
He really needs to see this summer as a chance gained rather than a chance missed.
At Goodison this year he’ll be afforded more time to hone his game and become an even better hitman. If the feel good factor around the club continues then he could be given all the opportunities needed to break his personal scoring records and see Everton improve and challenge for a European place.
Then maybe next summer could see him secure a move that he seems to crave, well Romelu or his agent!